Water. It seems like a simple thing, right? We’re told to drink it regularly and keep hydrated (at least half a gallon/2 liters a day). We shower in it, wash our dishes with it, even make amusement parks for it (Who doesn’t love a water slide?). As a result, it’s become something we take for granted. But safe, clean water is becoming more scarce. And we need to do something about water waste.
The cruciality of reducing water waste
We use water for pretty much everything: when we put on the kettle for a cup of tea, water our beloved plants, cook some soup. Almost everything relies on water, and most of the time, we don’t even realize how much we use because water has both direct and indirect purposes. The CDC outlines some of the uses that we depend on for water in a direct way:
- Taking a bath
- Drinking (water)
But, what are the purposes that we use water for, without even realizing it? The CDC outlines the following ways that we use our water supply indirectly:
- The creation of paper – in this process, water is used to process the wood so that it can be made into paper.
- Building cars – the production of steels for cars also requires water.
- Heating/cooling houses – both radiators and air conditioning use large amounts of water.
- Farming – water is a fundamental part of farming, providing the ability to grow produce and help nourish livestock.
- Hospitals and healthcare facilities – we might never even consider it but water is essential in the medical industry, from washing medical supplies to the use of hydrotherapy for patients.
- Factories and manufacturing industries – most often used for creating products or cooling the equipment that’s used to create those products.
In fact, the majority of our water supply is used for these indirect purposes such as agriculture, industry and commerce, energy, recreation and further household needs. Here is the problem though: water is finite. Although we tend to think of water as an infinite source, we only have so much of it. Especially with rising temperatures and climate change, accessibility to water is becoming increasingly problematic.
This, in turn, becomes a problem for us as water is vital and fundamental in our lives. The WHO highlights that access to safe, affordable and—most importantly—sufficient water, is critical for our wellbeing and a basic human right.
Depleting water supplies
Climate change is majorly impacting our water resources. Higher temperatures and increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather conditions impacts the amount and distribution of water sources—rainfall, snow, river flows, and even groundwater.
If water levels continue to deplete, this could have adverse effects on our health and food security, as well as escalate tensions around refugee dynamics and political instability.
Due to climate change, droughts are also increasingly common, making water even more scarce than before. This doesn’t only affect water-supply but also drainage, sewer infrastructure, and the functioning of wastewater treatment plants; if these systems don’t work properly, it can affect public health.
The UN even started an initiative: World Water Day. It was started in 1993 and, to this day, continues to raise awareness over the importance of water in our lives. Every year, it highlights how we can do better to keep our water supply clean, healthy, and also sufficient for everyone on the planet.
Preserving our water supply is increasingly crucial and it’s important that we don’t waste the water that we do have. As we continuously depend heavily on water and climate change impacts its availability, wasting water is really not an option for us anymore.
In the UK, the average person uses up to 40 gallons (150 liters) of water every day, but this can rise up to even 924.6 gallons (3,500 liters) per day, if we take into account all of our different daily activities that rely on water (for example, flushing the toilet, doing laundry, showers, etc).
How can you make a difference?
Despite the immense usage of water, there is so much that we can do ourselves that can help the current situation; every little action helps!
There’s actually many modifications we can make in our everyday habits that can greatly help reduce water waste. While these changes may seem small, they pack a big punch:
- Only run the dishwasher and the washing machine when there’s a full load.
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
- Avoid letting your tap run while washing dishes.
- Wash your veggies in a bowl instead of running them under water – washing veggies is important to make sure we don’t eat anything we wouldn’t want to, but running the water while we wash them uses up a lot of water. Fill a bowl with water instead and wash your veggies that way. The remaining water can even be used to feed your plants!
- If you have a lawn, avoid overwatering it.
- Take shorter showers.
- Avoid taking baths too often – a bath can use up to 21 gallons (80 liters) of water. Now, we all enjoy a nice bath every now and then but try to cut down on the amount that you have; opt to take a shower instead!
- Keep cold water in the fridge – waiting for the tap to run cold water can be really wasteful. Use a jug of water in the fridge instead, that will always be kept cold and you’ll always have cold water on hand.
- Don’t flush waste that can go in the bin – for example, cotton balls, Q-tips, single-use wipes. Not only are these harmful if they go into the water supply, but throwing them in the bin will help cut down the amount of water that would have been used with each flush.
Tackling water waste doesn’t mean that we need to fully restrict the amount of water that we use. Instead, we need to take more mindful approaches to the way that we consume water. Something as simple as taking a shorter shower or not running the tap for unnecessary amounts of time can already make a major impact with a little extra effort.